The Scuttlebutt Podcast - The podcast for service members and veterans building a life outside the military.
In this episode, Brock talks with Michael Pecota.
Mike is former aviation at the squadron level and now works for NAVAIR doing additive manufacturing. We talk about how proximity to the mission impacts the lives of people in a unit. We compare and contrast sea duty and shore duty and how being more involved with the mission day to day tends to strip away a lot of the unnecessary actions have units with more time than duties. Mike gives a unique take on why the Navy has such a hard time promoting junior people that speak up. He has a drastic proposed solution that involves getting rid of the chiefs mess entirely. And lastly, we talk about Michael's area of expertise additive manufacturing. He talks through how 3d printing is playing out in today's military and what needs to happen to see wide scale adoption.
You can reach out to Michael on LinkedIn.
The Scuttlebutt Podcast features discussions on lifestyle, careers, business, and resources for service members. Show host, Brock Briggs, talks with a special guest from the community committed to helping military members build a successful life, inside and outside the service.
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Brock Briggs 00:00
Hello, and welcome to the Scuttlebutt Podcast, the podcast for those current and former service members who are looking to go above and beyond. I'm your host Brock Briggs and today I'm speaking with Michael Pecota. Mike is former aviation at the squadron level and now works for NAVAIR doing additive manufacturing. We cover a lot of ground. In this episode, we talked about how proximity to the mission impacts the lives of people in a unit. We compare and contrast sea duty and shore duty and how being more involved with the mission day to day tends to strip away a lot of the unnecessary actions have units with more time than duties. We've all been there. Mike gives me a unique take on why the Navy has such a hard time promoting junior people that speak up. He has a drastic proposed solution that involves getting rid of the chiefs mess entirely. And lastly, we talk about Michael's area of expertise additive manufacturing. I love talking with people who have such an excitement for their field and are passionate to share it with others. He talks through how 3d printing is playing out in today's military and what needs to happen to see wide scale adoption. This was a fun conversation. Enjoy learning from Michael Pecota. Welcome there are two things I need to find out before we can like officially start this because that's just like the most gripping issues to me right now. One, you pushed off our interview by a day for a date. So by default, you have to let me know like how that went. Do you want to answer that? Or do you want the number two?
Michael Pecota 01:53
Let me know what we're getting into. We'll start with one easy ask what's number two?
Brock Briggs 01:56
Number two, I listened to another podcast that you did and you like openly on air degraded breakfast rice, which I take major offense with, like breakfast rice is like literally a staple now in my house outside of the Navy have been out for four years. Like I make breakfast rice all the time. So we're going to you know, pick your poison. Which one do you want to start with?
Michael Pecota 02:24
Oh, we'll go we'll go this and then I'll have a rebuttal one. The date was fantastic. We went out to DC just had a great time. Man. That's been going good. So it's been it's been about almost two years now. Like a year and a half. And some changed since like, I've been in that scene and it's tough man, you know, I haven't dated in over 10 years. I'm 32 now and the world has fucking changed. We've changed everything and when I when I was in the squadron we call these things poof nights. And what we would do is you had to bring somebody to the bar will be like Friday's a poof night and you had to bring somebody to the bar that you met on plenty of fish. And if you showed up what if you didn't show up with anybody you had to buy the first two rounds. So
Brock Briggs 03:10
Oh wow.That's brilliant.
Michael Pecota 03:13
So we were like you're getting to like Thursday they're like yo I don't I'm go I'm going you know all now I don't care. I'm bringing somebody
Brock Briggs 03:20
Yeah, it was cool. I mean to raise two rounds for the whole you know, the whole shop that's that's gonna be expensive.
Michael Pecota 03:28
We're not cheap dates.
Brock Briggs 03:29
I literally just imagining like seeing these videos now where they like bring a bunch of like, your exes into one room. And like I imagined that just once all of the dates find out that they are also there for the first time like that. That's got to be like a humorous interaction.
Michael Pecota 03:48
There was a couple of times where you're like, hey, this is you know, this is Tiffany. She's great. Let's get these drinks and you go and they just our friend David wouldn't like talk to him talk to her and usually your walk out after watching like I got what happened? Number two, your fucking breakfast rice by the way is awful.
Brock Briggs 04:06
That just like that just touches my heart like in a good way.
Michael Pecota 04:12
What what did you think about Chuck Wagon? On the ships? Did you ever have chuck wagon?
Brock Briggs 04:17
I'm not I might know about a different name. I'm not sure what that is.
Michael Pecota 04:20
It was all the ships I was on, it was called chuck wagon. It was kind of like beans and meat and like just mush. And we put it on toast. I absolutely love chuck wagon. And that is the one recipe that I was like on the boat like this is delicious. And now I've looked up recipes and I make my own Chuck Wagon. That's the only thing that has survived everything else is like now this little hamsters you know blew out the window, baked chicken ruined for me. And yeah, breakfast rice.
Brock Briggs 04:51
Yeah, breakfast rice still remains like one of the best inventions like I don't know if the the ships are the one that put it together but it just especially like little soy sauce in the morning man that'll just like Suraj on everything of course like Yeah, I think that I've like kind of seared off like half of my taste buds just from like a hot sauce so much of a couple of years on the boat. I want to hear a little bit about your navy time. How did it feel to be the inferior avionics at strand let's go with a third hitter here. You're you're an ATO on the squadron level starting out.
Michael Pecota 05:33
I was I was um so you know I'm believe you said you were an AE right.
Brock Briggs 05:39
I was an ATI.
Michael Pecota 05:41
Oh even fucking worse. Oh, I'm sorry. So you know the light of day is really done wonders for your complexion.
Brock Briggs 05:47
Yeah, it really has. Stayed in my coat for about four years. I would walk out to FOD walked down on deployment and we're like in our our huge thermals and like the our glasses are all fogged up from the van. It was a very hate the AC was nice.
Michael Pecota 06:08
The AC is nice. I will say I did my last tour was I level and I learned very quickly it wasn't for me. Oh yeah. Oh, yeah. So I joined in oh eight ATO side. Right after. I know that the the hurricane hit Pensacola before that, because I had to do all my electric basic electronic schools still in Chicago with a lot of the shipboard staff because they're like, Oh, hey, the schoolhouse is still you know, it's being rebuilt. So I spent a few months in Chicago on that side, and then transferred to Pensacola did basic schooling out there. Ironically, that was almost the end of my career. I got arrested one night in Pensacola. No one ever believes that. But it's true. Do you remember
Brock Briggs 06:16
Really? Is it story time? Like?
Michael Pecota 06:58
This is what we're here for?
Brock Briggs 06:59
Right lay it on me?
Unknown Speaker 07:03
Did you ever were the what were those called? The utilities? No. So we had the utilities and you had a black jacket. So I was wearing a black jacket when I got my photo taken in Chicago. So my ID picture they put the year right up on the back right where your photo is. So when I was wearing the black jacket, you couldn't see my birth year. D Dang. First some friends out in Pensacola, and we're going
Brock Briggs 07:29
Were you over 21 at the time?
Michael Pecota 07:31
No, no no. That's where this whole thing goes wrong.
Brock Briggs 07:37
I'm like, okay, Pensacola DD'ing. I'm like, Okay, we're into a good drinking story here, this ought to be good.
Unknown Speaker 07:44
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it's it. I really wasn't doing anything. I really was DJing. But we're going into the bar and everything like that. And we were on like our third bar for the for the evening. And they got a bouncer, the bouncer stops me and says, Hey, what's your birth year and whatever like that, and me in my brain, I'm not thinking about the drinking aspects. I'm thinking like, Oh, I'm bet they're kicking out younger kids. They don't want anybody in here says like, oh, you know, I'm very conscious of the fact you can't read the birth year. So I upped it by like, two years. I'm like, oh, you know, born in 87. All this stuff like that. Definitely born in 89. And I looked, I looked a lot older. Anyway, so he looks at the ID and he's like, what did you do to this? Did you alter it? But I was like, no, no. Do you have any forms of ID on he was like, Nope, that's it. It's my base ID. And then he'll I wasn't looking at like, wave somebody and a police officer rolls over. And I'm like, Oh, shit. So my friends go in. I'm like, hey, just go Don't be associated with me. I'm fine. They go inside the cop comes over the bouncer explains the story. And once again, I'm very oblivious to this whole drinking thing about people sneaking into bars about drinking. I'm just like, Man, I'm not going to get to go in I'll wait outside for my buddies. I'll go somewhere else. It'll be fine. And then so the cop ends up frisking me cuz I told the bouncer I didn't have another form of ID he finds my wallet which had my real birth year and it goes downhill from there.
Brock Briggs 09:12
Michael Pecota 09:13
He's thinking he's like, Hey, you you altered your ID blah, blah, blah. I tried telling him the truth. He wasn't having it. So handcuffed my butt I went into the paddy wagon big van it had a bench seat in the back and the handcuffs were just like tied to it. You're just like swerving all around. It sucked. And then I get away to the quarter deck. And you know, the masterchief isn't there the cop drops me off. So I had to sit on the quarter deck all night long until the next morning. The and the cop reporting said Hey, he's altered his ID he was trying to get in. And we think he was trying to underage drink and so I had to wait till the next morning had to talk to the master chief when he came in first thing. Explained everything said I'm sorry. I wasn't even thinking about the whole drinking and 21 thing I really do. Just wanted to get in and be with my friends so that I was DD, but you could breathalyze me or do anything like that. He was totally cool. He was like, Okay, this is alright, you, I'll write you a note for class today. Go ahead and get your ID retaken without the jacket. Thank you, and get back to class. So that was, that was my very first and like, last run in with doing anything like that until I was 21. I was very, very cautious with all my navy front like, Nope, never, never again.
Brock Briggs 10:29
Yeah, that could have gotten much worse. Here isn't older Navy stories. And like, that's not even that long ago, like that. I joined in 2014. But that still feels like, you know, a light year away. But hearing some of like older stories, it always feels like they like it has gotten stricter over time. I don't know that that is a fact. But it feels like that.
Unknown Speaker 10:55
Oh, 100% You know, I did eight, eight to 18. And I'm a big proponent. I think you know, the the borderline when you say older, and it has no relation. It has no relation to this in a negative way. But the biggest events in my time in service was when they revoked Don't Ask, Don't Tell. So you know, everyone beforehand, it was really comfortable. Everybody knew it didn't really matter. But it was like a big momentous occasion and everything after that the Navy became very comfortable, like, Well, we, you know, we revoked don't ask don't tell,, we're doing away with our major policies, let's just keep going. So it was just change after change after change. You know, I think I went through five or six, like uniform changes, just all of this stuff, it, some of them for the good, some of them for the better, or some of them for the better, and some of them for the worse. I think that you know, but living through that time, and being in the service during the time just seeing so many people trying to adapt to change, interpret the intentions of different rules, what's going on. The Navy just slowly started to become this entity of rule after regulation after rule. So you got away from, you know, we originally had that honor, courage and commitment thing and honor was like a decent piece they were counting on you being a good person, they were counting on you having morals and representing the uniform and slowly became, hey, we're gonna have an instruction for everything. And if you did this, and it was covered by this instruction, shame on you just read it, this huge tidal wave of policies and it difficult. I really liked my year, my first couple of years in the service. You know, there was everybody knew I was on night check. Everybody knew in the fridge, there was blue Gatorade, and the blue Gatorade had vodka. So if anybody was having a bad night, you can just sit there. And if you sip from like the blue Gatorade, people would leave you alone, they would give you a minute. You know, there was hazing, which I was just talking about that yesterday was kind of fun. I was one of the last people to really get hazed you know, get the pass down log, everybody in the shop, got to spank me with it on my birthday. And then I got the day off that just different things like that there was a new a different level of bonding and working together that really as as I transitioned up into the other commands, was lost, they became a different navy. So I don't take any offense when you say like, older stories, because I totally recognize that today's Navy, even though it you know, 10 years ago, it's completely changed in many ways for the better in many ways for the better. And in many ways, it's still adapting to to the new world how to implement change, and to skirt that line between having to have a regulation and just being a decent human being.
Brock Briggs 13:45
Yeah, it sounds like that. The Don't Ask, Don't Tell might have been like the first domino to fall in like this era of, you know, a lot of rapid change at once. And it's funny because we we talk about the DoD as this kind of like turtle organization that moves very, very slow to like, take on new things. But I feel like, every once in a while, there's going to be like a burst of speed where like, all of a sudden, it's like, we need to make a bunch of changes, like yesterday. And that sounds like one of those things.
Unknown Speaker 14:21
Well, it's actually I'm third generation myself. So my grandfather was Navy. I have another grandfather that was Army. My father was Navy, I was Navy, my little brother. So we do span some decades between the family. So talking about what things were like, what things are like, what's been going on. It's, it's fascinating, and there's so many similarities like you can relate to somebody, anybody that's ever been in the military. And that's what's really cool about being an adventurer. And there's always that, that level of understanding of what you've been through what it was like. But there's also just this complete different title difference in the daily operations expectations. I mean, My father could openly smoke weed, you know he was in during Vietnam. He was just like, yeah, that was part of the routine. It's part of what we did. You went out you smoked weed. They had strip clubs. He asked me I when I first got to PAX, because like it's a strip club. Still there is the the of the enlisted Club was like, Dad, the only time I ever saw an enlisted cub was in Pensacola, all the other places. I have never seen an enlisted club for the most part, you don't see Oh, clubs. Every everybody, as you said is going to have this flow of their time and service and it gets worse, it gets better. But as a whole, it does for as slow as it moves day in and day out business. There's been drastic changes just in the last 10 years.
Brock Briggs 15:42
Could you talk about, I'm interested to kind of like dig into some aviation chat with you, you got to play on both sides of the fence in terms of and for anybody who's listening who's I guess unfamiliar. We've got organizational level and then intermediate level, O level is more like on the actual aircraft. And at the squadron level, and then intermediate is kind of upper level but non touching the aircraft. I guess they're working on individual components. So you've got to kind of play on both sides of the fence there. It sounds like I level was not really your thing. Maybe just talk high level about both and compare and contrast a little bit. Oh,
Unknown Speaker 16:26
Absolutely. Um, you know, oh level, your mission forward every day when you're when you're there. It's like, hey, we have a mission to meet. We've got this we've got flight hours. There's purpose behind everything that you do. And it's direct there and it's in front of you. We've got mission. You know, you when you when you deploy, you know, like I've been on a frigate cruiser, frigate, cruiser, destroyer and carrier with the O level. We go out for a few months, you're doing counterdrug ops, you're doing formulations, all this stuff. And then you go to the intermediate level maintenance, and you don't see the day in and day out mission. They always tell you, it's there. But you're like, Okay, these, these six components came in the shop today, somebody fire them up, let's see how they're working. You don't have that daily operational pace that you do with the O level reason for you going fast. So it's a much slower pace. I was also here at PAX several years ago, used to have in the intermediate levels, AIMDS. My understanding is when they transferred over from AIMD concept to what you now have is FRCS, it changed how funding work when you had AIMD for instance, like here on this base, all of the the squadrons on that base contributed to the funding the execution of the I level, so you were always supporting the local flightline. So you would get different optempo requirements and you had more interaction. And everything you did there was for a reason. Now, as I've been told, when things changed, they swapped over to FRC concept. And so now in entities like Pax River here became a detachment of like Oceana. So when it came to like funding, most of the funding goes to Oceana, they take care of the prime first, and then you have all these other dets. But yeah, so you, you went up more, you're disconnected from the people you're actually supporting. And like when I was in Pax, you wouldn't you didn't have funding to send people to training. Because a lot of your training budget here at PAX went to sending the commanding officer every time he's got a visit. So you're pulling funds from like your training funds that are already pretty tight, to get your commanding officer to come out the sites and do rotation. So it just created this huge struggle of you're trying to get resources and funding from a larger entity that doesn't even see you hardly ever barely understanding just sees you on on a report. So it drastically changed in here at the I level. What I experienced, you know, we would have a component we knew it was broke. Traditionally and oh level, you'd go on your computer, you go okay, this components broke, I need a new one put on order remove this one, it's done. And here we would know something was broke. We'd have to print everything out print proof, right? We'd have to write a document, like a couple of paragraphs on summary of why it's broke what it did what we need to do, the signature would have to line up exactly halfway through if you folded it and if the signature was off, they would reject it. So you would spend a day putting this report together for one component, giving it to production control routing enough your chain of command it goes through several different people to make sure it's written well enough, and then they would just reject it so you would lose days of work to add administrative tasks just because the workflow wasn't there to justify, hey, we need to go fast like, No, we need to do things, quote unquote, right people, it needs to be right, it needs to be perfect. Let's reject this again. It's like, man, I just need the part to fix this. So you have all of these parts on the shelf, you're waiting for chits to go through, sometimes they get lost, it's a nightmare. And in the O level, that's all out the window. It's just aircraft down, get aircraft up, we'll get you the parts you need, you need to get back in the grind and get these aircraft up. And I enjoyed that a lot more. Supporting the direct flight line daily operations really being in there in the weeds with it.
Michael Pecota 16:30
There's still a drastic difference even at the I level. So I did one tour at FRC Oceana, and then went to AIMD on the carrier. And that was completely different because FRC you're so focused on all of the things that you're just saying we there wasn't really that report thing. But there still is just this unnecessary attention to things that don't matter. It's like, there's almost like a time that needs to be filled to like, we don't have anything else to focus on so let's just like really get into the weeds on these things that don't really matter. The second we go and deploy, and we're working on gear, it was almost more of I think what you're you're describing at the squadron level where we're working on gear, and we go down to production control, and we say, hey, we have this problem. And it's just like it's done. Versus like FRC, you go talk to production control, and there's like some other, there's like a machinist mate that's trying to tell me why. Like, how I should troubleshoot my parts? And I'm like, no, like, you're not even in this rate, like, What are you talking about? So I get what you're saying. I feel that. How do you think the closeness to the mission impacts I guess the individuals that are being involved? Like do you have any thoughts about why or why not that's a good thing.
Unknown Speaker 20:45
So that's a good question really good. I really think that being there in the mission increases, your want to be there, your drive and your motivation everyday, you can justify moving faster, you can justify, like, Hey, I'm gonna I'm not gonna worry about these things. I've got a mission, you can you have unique focus. It's there in front of you. So there's a lot of good with that. It drives you every day, you get a lot accomplished, you're very productive. But there's a couple of things that go amiss, those little things that you're like, Okay, there's a mission over here. I'm not going to worry about like, like training. The I level that we had many different computers. So you would send people and do your OJT is your training, you had time to sit and develop your personnel. In the O level, like those yearly trainings, you would stack everybody's cac cards up, and one person if they were like LLD, or if they were just sitting in the office for a certain reason. Anyway, you would plug in everybody's cac cards and take care of their their training, get the certs out, okay, they're done. They're done. They're done. They're done. They're done. The Op tempo is to avoid doing the things that quote don't matter to push the mission but what that does and a little bit is to the sailors that's a tough grind you're always putting mission first above yourself you're not going to to medical because you're like hey I got a mission I don't need this medical appointment I'm going to be okay you get in this mindset to never take care of yourself but to take care of the aircraft the mission and if you promote up the people under you so that they can do those tasks. But that leads to burnout it is so so common to push for months on end and then to just be burnt out and then it leads to you know in your personal life gets deteriorated everyone goes through divorces. You just get into this thing of nothing matters but the mission and so the rest of your life the rest of your sometimes your career, you won't pull focus on studying for the tests you're putting focus on getting your aircraft up. So it's a catch 22 It's good for certain things and it's a bad for a lot of others
Michael Pecota 22:38
Yeah, I talking to some like senior people at squadrons like you, you looked at them and like have a conversation and it kind of almost feels like they just like came up for air. Like you know after years of just like boom, boom, boom, and that's maybe a little bit the Navy in general. But yeah, that intense focus, like if you're not careful. The downtime is like not a something that's like encouraged or even really thought about to any degree.
Unknown Speaker 25:05
No, it's always, it's always the opposite. You know, there's something with that. This was my second command I checked in an e3 and left and e6. So I got to see the whole the whole breadth of what it's like going from the bottom and then being in a leadership role. And that also that that quick jump, really, for me put a, I got to see what it would take and not not having to be like, Okay, well, you know, being an e5 seemed like there was better, but that was at this command being an e4 was great. And then being an e6 is terrible. I was like, No, this isn't one command, I see how things work, things were going on. And that is when you know, at the O level, I've made my decision that I was getting out. You know, we mentioned this before I got out at 11 years. So many people are have always said like you were over the hump, you were on your, your decline, you're ready to go. But I was it would have been at nine, I think nine or year nine or 10, where I absolutely made up my mind, it was like, I'm going to do a shore duty tour, I'm going to prepare myself because I've focused on mission for so long, I need to get my finances straight, I need to get my family straight, I'm going to spend my last shore duty tour and get ready for transition. So I jumped into I level with that mindset and it really got reinforced while I was while I was there. I told you I got I got involved with the innovation team. So very rare for an e6 I got within a few months of being there, I got my first evaluation and I got a check in MP. So usually they always say like at e6 level, you check into a command, your first evaluation is going to be a p and then they want to see they want to see progression for your for
Brock Briggs 26:53
Michael Pecota 26:55
The progression, the dirty P word they want to see progression, whatever that means. So I had a check in MP. And they started to like, hey, you know, we need to start getting in groups are doing right. And I was like, Hey, I don't want any part of this. We're in the middle like O365 training, I was like, This is great. I'm going to support him and do everything. But I'm getting out. And as soon as I started, like really pushing that I'm not here to promote, I have no intention of putting on chief or e7, I just want to take care of myself and get out of the Navy. It really changed the perspective of my interactions with various senior middle leadership in our command. Senior level was very, very helpful with that they understood completely, very supportive. But the middle, like the e7 to e9 became very difficult to work with, as you were seen as you know, an administrative burden. You were just there. You didn't care. I was like no, I still cared very much. So during that time, I had no problem speaking up, you know, we were dealing with these asbestos issues known issues that were kind of getting swept under the rug, because they'd been reported for so long. And no one had ever done anything. So I was like, No, I'll step forward, I will say my piece, I have no problem taking pictures, sending in messages. And I did so I would also call out when like they were in my opinion abusing like Junior sailors. There was once when you had a civilian staff part of this FRC and the lead civilian was in charge of taking care of the building. And he called in some some folks to repaint a particular door. And they came back and said, No, we can't do it. It's lead based paint. And so he came down and directed two of my junior sailors to go strip the paint. I happened to be there and see when they said it's a lead based paint, we won't do the work, I stepped away. And I came back you know a day or two later and saw that they were they're getting my sailors and they're starting to sand it. They had no PPE, they weren't ever told that it was lead based paint. So they were just sanding it down like they would anything I stopped right there and said, no this is this is not going to fly. You don't, in my opinion, endanger sailors and tell them and leave facts out just because you can tell them what to do and they'll they'll do it without asking questions. So I was very, very vocal in my last few years about trying to do the right thing trying to protect folks and make sure they weren't being what I think of as being abused just because they are a military workforce. And that that didn't make me some friends at the end very well. So but I did much better for it.
Brock Briggs 29:30
I imagine that it wouldn't matter what what do you think that it would take to inspire all of the enlisted force to think and speak up like that? And why don't they? Oh,
Michael Pecota 29:46
Wow, man we should have we should have did though some of these questions and hadn't ready put some thought towards them.
Brock Briggs 29:52
Because, I mean, there's no career risk.
Michael Pecota 29:55
Yeah. And so here's what I think the biggest problem in the Navy I've spent the last few years since I worked out working very closely with the Marines, and I still do work with sailors and marines. But I work with more more Marines now than I did in a long time. And I've seen a lot of benefit over there. I see things the how they operate a lot differently. Even morale, but we won't get into that. In the biggest difference, and this is yet to take this from the perspective of somebody who spent I spent most of my career as an e6 than any e one e two, e three, I made it my six year mark. And like I said, I got out, well, 11 and some change. Our biggest problem is how we promote to the e7 level. You know, to make chief, you have to be accepted. It's very much ran, for lack of a better term like a mafia. So you have to do what they say, otherwise, you won't make it. You have to do all this. So you're at the e6 level is where you're supposed to look out for your junior sailors, you're supposed to be taking care of them, you're the senior man in that work center in that environment. But if you're trying to promote, and you're trying to make it to e7, you have to spend the majority of your time not thinking about the people under you, but about pleasing the people over you so that you will get the evaluation so that you will participate and get their letters of recommendation so that you can get into the cool club. So you're, you're very discouraged at for the people who shouldn't be speaking up for you and should be doing the right thing that they don't want to either because they're going to get a black eye, and they're not going to promote. So I think if I were to try to change anything tomorrow, and it's very controversial, to people who are e7 and above, I would get rid of that what they call the mess concepts. The Navy isn't structured to do that they could not make that change very quickly. But I see in the Marines that they're there, and it's just e7, and then you promote and its just e8. So they're not worried about the entire senior enlisted group, wherever they're at coming down on them, and, you know, just rolling their name in the mud and making sure they don't promote. They can have an opinion, they can speak up and say, Hey, I'm gonna say this is wrong. Because they're just there isn't as unified mass floating above them, pushing them down and forcing them to make these decisions. You'd get a like a chief that come down and be like, Hey, we so and so something happened on your junior sailor, Joe on his next promotion or whatever, when he's up for evaluation, I need you to write him up as a P because or we need you to write him up as a p, because we want to see so and so and so and so be an MP. And it's like, well, I don't I don't get the chance to fight for them. I can't fight you, because I'm trying to please you. But this is my top worker. So I, I feel very strongly that he should be evaluated appropriately. But you're coming down and you already have it all rack and stack for the whole command of who you think and who the mess thinks is going to promote. But that's that's what I would change tomorrow, I would change the promotion from e7, e8, e9, eliminate this mess culture, and really take out what in the innovation space a lot of people call the frozen middle, we have such a huge mass in the frozen middle that behind the scenes act as one which has a lot of benefit to it. Um, don't me wrong, there are huge advantages to the mess concept as well. I get why it has evolved and become what it has. But if you want to make significant change, and ensure that everybody junior can and has a voice and isn't afraid to speak up without, you know, ruining their career and dampening the lives of their family members and all that stuff like that, then we need to eliminate as a Navy the ability for that to happen. And unfortunately, I don't think that's something that anyone's capable of doing anytime soon.
Brock Briggs 33:43
I don't think that I've ever heard anybody say that before. But that's as you're saying that I'm like, wow, that that makes so much sense it, you kind of feel like you're, you're going up against your parents kind of in like you feel like they have to have like a united front. Like when somebody comes in for before they go up for NJP or whatever, they go to the mess and they stand there and they just get shredded by the group or whatever. And then you know, now they've got like, it kind of is like making its way down the ranks to because there's like the first class petty officers Association, which is it's just the mess but it's a different rank. And it's like this weird group of people that are just Yeah, I don't know. I didn't say in long enough to really kind of fully kind of experienced that. So but I I understand where you're coming from. So you said you made first in six and then decided to get out at nine. So that would have left you in that position of trying to please the people above you and also take care of the people below you for three years. Like what I mean maybe do you have anything else that kind of like really stung you about it during that time or
Michael Pecota 35:02
Well, once again within in the O level, I didn't notice at the time because it was so mission forward. And ironically, our our shop, we probably only had, you know, 10 individuals, and six of us were first class. So we always played this game, like who was getting fired today, it was a joke in the production control, something bad would happen at somebody, okay. LPO, their output, the next e6. And so like every other day, we were rotating through who's LPO today. And we had a we had the O level, we had a lot of fun. And there really wasn't a first class mess when I was there, believe it or not. We it just everything is the mission, everything's forward. So although yes, every now and then you'd run into like, okay, the chiefs don't want me to do this. Even in the O level, chiefs were more encouraged to do what was right, because they were doing their tasks. So they would do that though the real place where I noticed such a huge disadvantage to it was in in the I level. So to say that, but my last year, two years, whatever it oh level, as an e6, I thought it was wonderful, I didn't really notice I was able to take care of the people under me, we were very mission forward. And it really wasn't until I was at the I level where you have those different, you have the first class mess, you have the Chiefs mess, you're participating in things like CPO 365, which was a whole program to groom you how to be a chief. So once a week, you're spending all these hours and logging all these books, and getting signatures, you'd have to go to an e7 or above and say, hey, my book, I need to talk to somebody and have them sign off on this task. Can you do it for me? It was awful. And you know, you were talking earlier about - you said one thing in particular Camembert was, you know, just having to ask for permission. The whole united front, I can't tell you how many times in the I level, I was sitting there trying to stand up for what I thought was right. And I had two different chiefs that were that were great in that position, they come down, they pulled me aside and be like, Look, what what you're doing is right for this work center. And for this person. However, you know, we as a mess, we're going to make this decision. And we're we're telling you, this is how things are going to be. So they would be like, Look, I see your perspective, I believe you're right, as well. But we can't do anything about it. This is what we have to do. So yeah, that that happened. And I think it's very much recognized that that's the way that it operates.
Brock Briggs 37:31
Is that the final kicker for you wanting to get out? Or was there another reason?
Michael Pecota 37:36
No, that was that was the definite nail in the coffin. Once I knew that I was not going to be doing anything to to advance I told you, I got that check in MP, I made it very in the Master Chief at the time, he was like, Okay, that's it, you're, you're going to have P's the rest of the time you're here so I knew I would never have a chance to promote it. He was like, Look, if I give you an MP or even if I gave you an EP, I would be taking that away from somebody else who wants to stay in and wants to promote so it's it's very political at that level, what decisions are made even who's in what positions. So for my benefit the last few months once my replacement came in, so say like the last year I was there, I was just a filler body. I would go across and I would spend a little time in Airspeed for a few months, then that would fill up and get back on track, I would go to AMSU So it actually did good for me getting out because I learnt so much about how the different programs work, so many different things that I never knew about like AMSU part, in dock when they come parks when they come into the system when they come into the command what happens to them how they're logged that as I'm now transitioned on the NAVAIR side, and I've been trying to support the fleet and find out ways that we can do things differently using 3d printing and additive manufacturing, I'm able to say hey, look, you know, it's not just about making parts you can go to and finding them on aircraft, you can go to your local ICRL You can do all these different things and see hey, how many parts are outstanding how many parts have we just turned away reporting that we don't have capability on and also educating the commands as we roll in like hey, we're rolling a new piece of equipment. It's going to change the capabilities that you have here you have to adjust appropriately so that these parts come into your system. So I actually am very very thankful for that that I was in that position to rotate through so many places in the command learned so many different things about how it all worked cuz it's really benefited me these last few years
Brock Briggs 39:39
It's interesting that you say that because when you talked about like being really any rank like second class first class whatever going to those other weird departments Airspeed, QA is usually like looked upon highly as like a good thing. But ICLR all these other weird they have hazmat, that's another one are all like, such tertiary programs that it's almost looked down upon. But if you think about the value that you're actually bringing to the command and certainly on like a, from a civilian perspective, like those are actually like very high value things to know and understand.
Michael Pecota 40:19
It is it's incredibly it's not just like an almost it is it is completely frowned upon. You know, when you're at like e6, ranking boards and everything like that, they tell you like, oh, this person is in distress. They're in the tool room, they're in this you know, exactly who is there and why they're there. But yeah, and it's, it's absolutely crazy. Because if you think about something, it was joked about my entire O level career, but Airspeed. They'd always be like, oh, let's take off the stapler on the desk. We Airspeed' it, like the I level. Haha. You get into Airspeed, see, man, in every command, at least at the I levels, you have a group that's dedicated towards identifying problems, finding solutions and making things better process improvement. It's incredible. And that, honestly, that's what I found more of a passion for than anything else while I was there. And so yeah, you those folks, because you're in such a production driven environment, it's frowned upon to be there. Normally in commands, you don't end up with good people in those positions. So they're not really doing the best they could for that command. So you, you just get into these places where everything's been the same for 10 years, they don't change, they never really make any change and make things better. They just exist. And it's like, well, you could have put some quality people in this program that you're required to put staff in anyway. And they would have helped you identify your biggest problems and break through them. And instead, they sit here and just casually work on projects and try to stay busy. It's crazy. But yeah, for me getting out and with the people I support and what I do now that was so so wonderful. I look back on that I would I would not change a thing.
Brock Briggs 42:03
Airspeed is one of those ones to that, like, I mean, people joke about it in the Navy is like going to Airspeed is like a negative thing. But, I mean, nobody's going to be laughing at you when you have like your Green Belt certification on the outside. And that actually means something. Like, yeah.
Michael Pecota 42:22
I have green, I was a green instructor. So you know, I've been working with various other groups throughout the dawn and we're like, Hey, how can we identify problems and where's our head hurdles? Like guys, I got this I've got three books on my desk ever since I got out I've really fallen in love with that the whole concept of Lean Six, Sigma, all all those things associated with Airspeed and I put some emphasis on it. And it's like yeah, hey, there's the structure we can use. Maybe we could do a black level project or a black belt level project for these things so it's it I agree with you it is absolutely shocking what is downplayed when you're there is actually either big dollar figures or right into jobs. It's probably a lot easier getting into you have a bigger breadth of places you can get into with like your green your belt than you could like as an avionics tech for right oh in positions there's tons of avionics techs, there aren't that many green and black belts and those the jobs are so many jobs out there not even related to aviation or the Navy that are looking for those those very critical assets like in automotive or any kind of manufacturing industry they need those principles
Brock Briggs 43:41
you said that you looking back on your time you wouldn't have changed getting out at 10 or 11 years now what what has given you the confidence that you know now that that was the right decision? Because I this is like a hill I'm regularly fighting people on and like coming to like want to die on because my spouse is preparing to get out at the 10 year mark and there's just this Oh, you're you're halfway there? Halfway to what, like halfway to making two grand a month. What? Nothing? Yeah, your health care, great, like fantastic. Like what else you know, spending another 10 years doing something that you maybe don't even like,
Michael Pecota 44:29
And being miserable and just being belittled. You know, your time and my time and service, your time and service. You know this. You're not really treated like a human being even by your peers by anybody above you. You're just a body there with a task to do. Nobody cares if you have medical, nobody cares if something's wrong with you. Heaven forbid you have anything like you're dealing with anything at home you and your family and personal reason. There is nobody that cares about you because nobody's incentivized to there. It's all about the mission not being a true leader not being there for your folks. It's numbers. So, to me, that was the biggest part of getting out, it took some transition. My boss will tell you this, I still notorious about this, I'll message him and be like, hey, just so you know, Tuesday, I'm going to be at an appointment he's like Mike, I don't care. He's like, get your work done. You've always gotten your work done. He's like, just take care of your business. You're a human being now. That has been the best part of me. But, you know, the other thing that's changed is what kept people in at 20 Why people said you always had to retire was for the retirement. So you would get out and you could collect the check the day you got out. That's no longer the case. You know, I really don't understand people who are in the blended system that they have now. Which is, as I've researched it a little bit before I got out just like a 401k. So if you're in it for the retirement, and you're saying, Hey, I'm gonna make it to 20 to retire, you still have to get out, you're not going to collect a check the next day, you you might get medical and disability. But guess what, you can get the same things, if you get out at your 468 10 Like, you can still get the medical, you can still get the disability, both the money, the coverage, the insurance. I truly don't understand why people do 20. Because if you compare the two, it says it's just a contributory thing, it's how much money you put in. In the military, you don't make any money, you don't make any money compared to what you would in the civilian world doing almost anything. And if you go like for like, like what an avionics tech would make on the outside, you're gonna be making double and triple. So if you're just contributing a percentage of your paycheck, and you're doing it for retirement, it makes no sense to take the lowest paying job to do so. Take the highest paying job, get out of the service, be treated like a human being, make more money, you'll be able to contribute more of your money to your retirement, and you'll collect at the same point. So these days, with if I hadn't, if I was like, being an advisor to anybody, I would say do your four years, get your college benefits. Get out, make sure you claim all your medical, anything that happened because we all get hurt, it happens. Make sure you take advantage of that, and then get out use your college benefits, get a higher paying job and contribute more to your retirement you're gonna be so much better off. And when you come to retirement age, you're gonna have more money to work with, so you'll be able to retire sooner.
Brock Briggs 47:34
That money argument I understood why people said it. But now that I, like got out and went to school for finance, and kinda was like looking back on some of the things and I was like doing some of the numbers. And I was like, there's a lot of people operating under the assumption that you don't have the capability to contribute more to a retirement at a higher paying job. Like that's the reason to stay in. There's absolutely a lot of people that should stay in, I think that I'm not here to like Bash that in any way, shape, or form. But just make sure that you're doing it for the right reasons. And that's literally 100% of why this podcast exists is to expose people to careers and people so that you don't need to stay in if you don't want to and like help you prepare and do good things when you get out.
Michael Pecota 48:29
Now I'm getting back to there's there's one piece there I went on a tangent, but you're asking about why I'm so confident with what I'm doing. It's really simple with why I'm confident you. I joined people join the military for various reasons I joined really did join for patriotism, I'm all about supporting, you know, our country, and service. I've always been in service, doing things, volunteer work with different organizations. I have always been about dedicating my time to helping the most people that I can, and then getting out. If I stayed in, I would just have been doing another job, I'd be another body and getting out I've been able to support the entirety of naval aviation. All the sailors, all my brothers and sisters that serve. I have been able to do more good for them outside the service than I ever could have affected inside the service. And that to me is where I get the satisfaction every day and knowing that I did the right thing. I'm helping more people than I ever could. And being a resource, I'm able to do so much more I'm able to be their advocates. You know, there's been a lot of times I've gotten friends and they're like, Hey, I've got this problem. It's like, Oh, I know somebody, here's somebody I've met. Let me connect you over here. And maybe it's a work related issue. You can't get that components like I work with the program office, I'll connect you. That's happened so many times where being in the service, you're just lost. So I don't know I'm in the grind. I know I have a problem but I have nobody here to help. I absolutely love being able to be that kind of a resource and being able to advocate and make change and help. I'm all about that. And that's where I know I did the right thing. I know that I can help those people better I can help the my country better than I ever did and ever could while I was in.
Brock Briggs 50:10
You were talking about this a little bit earlier, but you said that you got plugged in with a couple teams that are on the base, like an innovation team. And some of that help set you up for getting a job at NAVAIR after the service. Can you talk about like what led to you? You said you had an interest in 3d printing. Was that something that you were doing? Outside of the Navy anyway? Just tinkering.
Michael Pecota 50:35
Yeah, so you know, it all started with Netflix, which is weird. I watched this Netflix special one day, I was sitting at home and it was called 3d print the legend. It was about the startup of 3d printing, not really the startup, it talks a little bit about it. But it was most mainly focused on that transition from when you had patents and then all of us became aware of what 3d printing was. The patents expired and you got these little desktop machines that. When I saw it, I was like, Man, I can make something I grew up very crafty. I was always using duct tape to fix things I was always building. That's just who I was as a kid. So I saw this capability, I was like, man, you know, you can conceptually think of something and with very little work to design it, see it there and then hold it a few hours later. Like this is incredible. And it's only a couple hundred dollars. So I bought one it was made a wooden zip ties, I stayed up through the night, the day I got it, built the whole thing. And then got to town. So I started seeing little things like I saw some caps, covers plugs, little tooling, things that weren't doorstops I'd be like, You know what, I'm gonna make it this week. And I would make it and tons of stuff around the house. So I just I got really involved. And then yeah, when I transitioned up here to PAX, I told you about the the design challenge they had, they're like, Oh, hey, we heard you you're involved in innovation jam, you got a few things, take it, pitch it to the admiral. And I did itwon that's history went out there is great. But while I was there, we it was during a convention called sea air space, which is very big here in the DC region for all the services. Most of the senior leadership attends It is a fantastic event. Last year was the first time in many years that I could not attend, because I was at another conference. But while I was there, I met up with different individuals that introduced me to a breadth of other groups that exist in this what we call the innovation ecosystem. So there are tons of different groups it especially in the DC region that are kind of like underground, trying to make change and help you get defense def defense entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs forum, I stayed involved with them from the day I was introduced all the way till even now I help when I can I have a little less time now. But I was very involved for a long time, then I still try to be. Then all the branches have their own. There's other Naval X, groups, like I'm very passionate about one I love naval constellation, which is the super secret underground. But yeah, getting introduced to so many people. And being able to help when people have little problems. Just I love that I love the defense ecosystem. I love the innovation ecosystem. It's sad that from from what I've seen all there's a lot of change every few years as funding gets reprioritized to different groups everyone's trying to survive, but you always have the core people in this area that see that change can happen and are dedicating their time and lives towards improving the services as they can very similarly in those ecosystems. So I'm very passionate about it and I love everything that they stand for.
Brock Briggs 53:46
Just as much as you want to see it like on in the civilian world we need people in the service that are doers. Like there's way too many people that just want to sit on the side and throw bombs about how how shitty this is or how bad that is or whatever it's like yeah, you may not have like just unlimited latitude but like if you care about something and you want to make it better like nobody's stopping you. Go in there raise a raucous and you know kind of made some waves doing what you what you want to do. Will you kind of recount the story, I guess of what happened with this cap and like pitching that to the admiral in this competition.
Michael Pecota 54:27
Yeah I got the challenge coin sitting over there. So when I got to jetpacks, the I, the I level the cursed I level. Within a week or two, they were like, Okay, we see what kind of person you are. You should know that we have an innovation team here. There was a great effort amongst FRCMA to create little teams at every single group, not as restricted as Airspeed that are bogged down by process and procedure, but just there to be like, Hey, let's see a problem. Let's make it better. Unfortunately, that died towards the end of my time there. But in the beginning, those were very powerful works for good. Sometimes you broke it up to junior and senior level. So you'd have a group for junior sailors and senior sailors. And they would speak right to the commanding officer in some cases and say, Hey, we identified we got this problem, we kind of have a solution, or we have something new we want to do. And so you took out that frozen middle. All the people that are encouraged to say no. So if you had senior leadership buy in, they would make it happen. A couple of the projects we got done, we looked into like using AR and VR for repair capability, we obviously did very well with 3d printing, and advocating for that. Let's see what else is. So God should have come with a pre list. But anyway, that though, getting involved with the innovation team, became really the driving passion that I had in the I level as I was getting out. But through that, within a few few months of being there, there at the sea or space convention, there was a group called Project Athena, which I love. But project Athena is where anybody in the Navy or the Marine Corps can pitch an idea to somebody in a senior leadership position. And they would hear the idea. So you know, I went up there with this very small 3d printed cap, maybe four inches by like two inches. And the the senior person there was at the time Rear Admiral. And so there was people from the Naval Academy, and they were pitching using drones on ships in contested environments to get back and have all the sailors learn how to do Morse code so that we can communicate. They had ideas, really big ideas on new shipboard systems way of doing things. And then I'm here like, Hey, I've got this little cap here, it would save this maintenance hours, and I made it for 25 cents. But if we implement it, you know, we'll save so many man hours every year. It's a great idea. And like I said, that cap actually won the entire event, because I was able to show exactly like look, it cost this much it cost nothing. We would use it every single day, it would keep FOD out of this area, which we always have to spend two hours to disassemble and clean. When we install this gear. When it won the competition. There was somebody in in the audience and she stood up. And she said, Hi, my name is Elizabeth Michael, I work here for NAVAIR in an innovation team, and we're gonna make this thing happen. So I got introduced to Liz. We transition but as I said before, the the innovation team concept from sailors and the NAVAIR, our engineers, it became the additive manufacturing IPT, the team that we are today. It morphed into that, and now we oversee additive manufacturing across the entire fleet for naval aviation. So yeah, the cap we within a few weeks, we got to what's called the program office, the people who oversee the aircraft that I did it for. We showed them the concept what it would take to do it, and they helped implement it and make it make it a thing. And that really set away for what we do with every day for all of our projects. That's how we do business. We take the low end ideas and the high level ideas, we we've created a structure to find those champions, those chief engineers in the program offices, and we've created a structure for how you get solutions out there. I like that with the position that I have in what I do that we've reinvented it in a different way we've taken that concept of the project Athena, and it's what we do every day in these work centers. Now we've stood up work centers where they have additive and 3d printing capabilities, they have people trained, they're trained on how to identify problems come up with solutions. It's also why I'm passionate about this, it really the implementation of additive manufacturing in our environment, rides on the back of everything I've learned through all these years with the innovation ecosystem process improvement, and it's giving an avenue to people who are stuck in the daily grind, to make things better for themselves for their command for their peers in a constructive environment that is still within their command, they can still do it as a daily job. I love it that I have no idea how this all happened. But what's great.
Brock Briggs 59:13
Will you explain what additive manufacturing is? Is that just another fancy word for 3d printing?
Michael Pecota 59:25
Okay, buckle up, baby. This is where we go to town. Yeah, man. So, you know, there's a lot of terms for all of all that we do. Additive Manufacturing is a term that incorporates it all. If any process that is of an additive nature, meaning you're stacking stuff on top of each other in a conformed manner in a particular controlled area is additive manufacturing, versus subtractive manufacturing is what's done for almost every single part and everything is you know, you have let's say you have a block of wood, you want to turn it into a sine, you either chip away at it or you put it in a CNC machine, and it brings it down to the shape of the item you want. That's traditional or subtractive manufacturing. Additive is building it up subtracting is subtracting or taking away from. So 3d printing what's normally referred to as 3d printing is usually covering like the what we call the desktop polymer systems. You have seven different processes listed by an organizational body called ASTM. Like these, these are the seven different categories that additive manufacturing is. One of them is called material extrusion or fused filament fabrication. And that is what most people think of as 3d printing. It's a smaller subset of a much larger thing. But 3d printing can be much more than that you have systems that work with resin, liquid resin, you have systems that work with things like a fishing line where you think of we do metals, powders, laser sintering, you can do anything. They have really cool systems in the last few years where they take essentially sawdust, and they they bind the sawdust with like glues and adhesives into an additive manufacturing made items so you can make geometry you can never make and it's like wood like item. You could almost any any material. You've got medical going on where you're able to 3d print, things like ears noses. I just saw where they did like an eye for a rat, I didn't dig too far into what that looked like. But you can you can take almost any substance, almost any substance and do something additively with it. And it's really just changing the way that we make things. But this, the concept isn't new, it's been around. Look at the patent poster behind me. But it started I want to say since like the 80s, I'll say the 80s Don't quote me. But only recently because the original patent started expire, you're getting so many machines that are out there, they're making so many changes. It's all around us. Most of the schools have them most of the libraries. COVID hit, people were manufacturing face mass shields, medical devices from their home and supplying it to these people that couldn't get parts. It just it took off. And so yeah, 3d printing is huge. It's with us, it's part of our daily life. I will not tell you how many machines I have in this home. But I have a lot. And yeah, I mean, it really is incredible that you can think of something. And you know, when I was like a kid or like you're trying to think how I want to build this, now you can digitally model it very easily like you're using Microsoft Paint. Sometimes you can 3d scan it. I have a 3d scanning app on my phone. So you can just scan something in front of you import it, print it, or import it, and then design around it. Like if I wanted to make a bottle stopper for this bottle, I could scan it within like a minute on my phone, import it into the software designed geometry that would fit into it, I could see what I'm working with, and then print it. It's just it's incredible how complex you can make things now from home very cheaply. They have printers that are even sub $100. They're not that great. But for under $100, you can have a machine that you can make anything, it's got some feedstock on it, you design it, you print it, and it's there in front of you within a couple hours. It just it's mind blowing, mind blowing,
Brock Briggs 1:03:26
You started to touch on like the cost of what these is, can you maybe just because I know nothing about 3d printers, so forgive my ignorance. But so you've got printers that probably range from 100 to I don't even want to guess what the upper bound is.
Michael Pecota 1:03:42
As high up as you want to go, I don't think there is an upper bound, you know, they've got they've got additive capabilities that are that are manufacturing buildings, you're doing entire buildings of concrete. Now, all of our space exploration that's coming up on all the Moon and Mars, all of that is going is additive base. They're going to use regolith, and you know, like rocks and dirt that are already there. And make the sense, I've seen a lot of things where they're going to make shells. So the shell of a building, and then when the human population comes there, they're going to put in balloons inside of the shells. And that's going to be the environment. So additive is, I don't think it has an upper limit of how much it can cost. But the lower limit, yes, sub $100. The cheapest I've ever seen a printer is like 75 bucks. And they're usable. It's like anything else. If you buy a cheap car and you're going to do a lot of maintenance on it, it's going to take a lot of your time. If you buy a cheap printer, you're going to do a lot of maintenance, it's going to be down a lot. So the more the more money you pay, the better the components, the better the QA that goes into it, the less that you're going to have to actually do so it's just how much money are you willing to pay for your time? What's your time worth?
Brock Briggs 1:04:54
And then what is it what does it cost for like materials? Obviously you kind of touched on that there's several different types of printers and using different types of materials to print stuff, I always kind of like that's where I got lost thinking about 3d printing before I'm imagining just like a tube of some sort of material or like some kind of like wire fed thing.
Michael Pecota 1:05:16
20 bucks. Most of what we call 3d printing as that is what we've on the cheaper side material, extrusion FFF, that you can buy a roll of that online for 20 bucks, and it can be in any color. There's different materials, nylon, abs. So you can choose a material that fits your use case, do you want it to be flexible? Do you want it to be rigid? Do you need to be a certain color, does it need to be transparent, doesn't need to be glow in the dark? Does it have carbon fiber infused in it? They have ones that have like coffee in them. So it smells has aromatics. I mentioned woodgrain ones so that you can sand and finish them a little bit more and you can apply stain. There are so many different materials that you have for these very simple machines. And they can cost $20 upwards. You could spend a little bit more 3040 50 and get a better quality product that you're not going to have problems with. Or you could spend 20 and just you know, hope and pray. And if that rol. isn't good, get another one.
Brock Briggs 1:06:18
I'm imagining that these don't have the same issue that a lot of our traditional printers have where you only print in black and white. But if you get low on cyan, you're going to need to buy a new cartridge.
Michael Pecota 1:06:29
Yep. No, most printers Do not. For the most part, you're dealing with one colors or rainbow. You know they have they have multiple colors, some of the machines can do tool swapping, so you can have three or four different colors. But now for the most part, with most of what at least I do at home, it's just one color, you load it up, maybe you have a different type of material for like a support structure, because you can't just like apply material on air, there has to be something supporting underneath usually like a scaffolding. So you can do like a dissolvable filament, a dissolvable material for that scaffolding and then build on top of that. And then you just put it like in a bucket of water and it dissolves away and you're good to go. And it's a lot easier than picking plastic away. There's just there's so much different options out there. Because we've seen additive really take on a whole new light. There's so much many different materials. They have ones with copper and fuse that say that they serve medical purposes. You can actually 3d print on the cheap $100 printers that we've talked about, you could get $100 Roll and you could print metal. So it's going to be like a loose metal with some polymer into it, you can send it away, and they're going to put it into different ovens and baking and heating processes. And you will get a metal object back so you can 3d print metal from home from $100 printer. Today, it exists.
Brock Briggs 1:06:36
Wow. That's really incredible. What a time to be alive. You mentioned some of the interesting applications are you're helping with aviation and like 3d printing materials for that. Talked about them building buildings with it for space application. You also touched on the fact that 3d printing has been around for the 80s. And from my perspective I following like financial markets, because that's what I'm into. I like every so many years, there's this weird like craze that comes up where everybody thinks that like 3d printers are like this next 3d printing company like no, this is the time like we're finally going to have like mass adoption of 3d printers, but it just like, and we had one like a couple of years ago. It still isn't here. Like you can buy one for $100 Online. But like, I still don't know if one person that has one of these. So what is the I mean, maybe I'm hanging out with
Michael Pecota 1:09:01
That's also what maybe it's not the wrong people, there's people that their children might have. And as I mentioned before, all of the schools, almost any public library these days has them. They're out there you just you don't you maybe you don't see it, you don't recognize or you don't even think about it anymore.
Brock Briggs 1:09:16
What do you think is I guess? And maybe this is, again, I mentioned this earlier, I'm very ignorant of a lot of things and I'm trying to not be, what is preventing this from being just this crazy widescale, like worldwide revolution, like the ability to make something in your home like that at this scale that you're talking about? That sounds very similar to things that we're talking about, like with the industrial revolution, we've got like, hole and like steam power. This is obviously a huge deal, but I I just don't see it. So it
Michael Pecota 1:09:55
isn't certain it is in certain places. You know, it's like um, When I bought a Tacoma, I never saw Tacoms on the road. And then all sudden I bought one. And now I see that I didn't I saw them everywhere. Now I bought my I didn't see Tesla's for a long time. I got my Tesla last year. And now all I do is see Tesla's on the road. So when you're when you in the 3d printing community, and now that you've heard about it, now you know a little bit more about it, I think you're going to see a lot more. It's just it's one of the things that you don't know about it till you know about it. And it's a you know, it's everywhere, all the car industry is is creating components for it. Hasbro has a series that they released this year, where they will take your head and put it on an action figure like GI Joe Power Rangers that's 3d printed. You've heard of Invisalign?
Brock Briggs 1:10:46
Michael Pecota 1:10:47
Invisalign is one of the biggest industries that started that really adopted and told everyone they were using 3d printing, all of all of you a lot of your medical your dental stuff is 3d printed, because they can easily scan your your mouth, and where your teeth are at, upload the model onto a 3d printer, print it. And then you know, using other technology, create those inserts, put plastic on top of it and do your teeth. 3d printing is around more than you know, it's all around you. You just don't know that you're seeing it. Some some components in certain phones are 3d printed. Aircraft, everything around you. I mentioned vehicles, tractors. Who am I thinking of. It's everywhere, it is completely changing the industry. But as a common user, you don't see it because you're used to seeing the product, you see another BMW on the road, you see this, you see that? You're not identifying that look, that's a 3d printed part. So in the manufacturing communities, everybody knows what it is it is revolutionizing everything. Even folks like Johnson and Johnson, how they they're 3d printing some of the molds that you do for the bottles that you have in every all of your houses, all of the r&d design work is usually 3d printed these days. All the major brands, if you take a major brand of anything in your home that you think about betting man is that they're going to be involved in additive in some way. And you can easily google it most of the time and be like, yep, they do that.
Brock Briggs 1:12:22
At the Navy level, or just kind of military level, in general, what is preventing every single avionics shop or any shop working out with any type of materials from just having one of these inside there. And then just when you need a new part, you just print it right there on the spot.
Michael Pecota 1:12:43
Three things. And this is a great this is I love and raising money, policy and understanding. So this is still very, very new. You know, we mentioned it's been around, it's probably earlier, I'm saying 80s I wish I had my light on because I could see it that that poster behind me is the original patent for 3d printing. All of the seven technologies that I mentioned that incorporates, I have their patents in my house as artwork. So this is what I do. I kind of like it. But so let's let's talk about policy right now. You know, when you when you are working in the I level spaces, everything is about policy. Well, you're fixing something, what publication did you use to sign it off? What did you do your work in? Beforehand, there was never a policy that allowed you to use 3d printing, we actually just put a phrase in the NAMP, like within the last couple of weeks. So now there is even mentioned in the NAMP The naval aviation maintenance program that we do all maintenance against the in aviation, there's mention of additive. So now we have instructions, we have things that say you can 3d print it. And then you have a direction by my team and different other policies in place that points to and says, Yeah, you can 3d print stuff. And here's how you do it. Follow these rules do it here. So that covers the policy aspect, though a lot of the other branches are the same way. Most of the other branches haven't taken. None of them I can tell you has taken it the way that the Navy has and it's due to the Marine Corps. The Navy, the Commondant of the Marine Corps a few years ago said hey, I want additive to happen. I authorized all commanding officers across the Marine Corps that they are allowed to buy 3d printers and guess what the syscoms, the engineering community, you guys are going to figure out how to do so that's what we're doing. So he created this great environment where now with additive is out there, everyone's got it. We we had to figure out how to support it. And now we're doing it in a more structured manner. That had its downfalls. You couldn't get replacement filament. You couldn't order parts you couldn't cut mafs, but now you can. So we there has been a lot of lessons learned but most of the other services what they've done is they they've created different I'll say almost like school houses, little engineering r&d hubs where they put additives. So it's still in the hands of engineers, they're learning to work with it. They're figuring things out. But we've implemented like another tool in the toolbox. It's in every I level, it's in most of the depot levels. We're telling everybody, it's here, here's what you do, here's how you use it. It's just another tool next to your CNC machine, your hammer. So we're paving the way for that to happen. But your funding. You know, nothing in this world is done for free. I've seen so many different things done in the last 10 years for how to fund additive at a very high level. And the money usually just doesn't get to where it needs to go. So at a high level, they'll put money and they'll say it's targeted for additive, and like the sustainment are these different things. But at the bottom, you don't have what's called a program office. You don't have a program office that can field that can put together a plan that is funded each year to exist. So instead, the people that are pushing additive every year while they're trying to do it, are trying to say okay, my money runs out this year, who do I have to beg, borrow and steal from to get the next year to keep this going. So you're putting so much effort into trying to find a resource sponsor or trying to find a source of funding, that you're not doing it as good as you can, you're not putting your effort and you're really not able to plan. You can't have a taser plan, when you're only funded for the next six months, the next six months and the next six months. So at some point in time, I think we're going to have some champion, there's gonna be some Admiral, some huge champion somewhere that's going to see this problem, they're going to hear from people in the trenches, you know, at the syscoms trying to do it and they're going to connect the dots and be like, you know, what you need, you need a program of record. We have to have this funded every year by Congress to make this real to make this work and to make this into a solution and not just have these little wins for a few years that, hey, they did a couple of things. They had millions of dollars of ROI. And then they just you have to take it seriously or it's always going to just hang on by a shoestring.
Brock Briggs 1:17:11
What does the addition and widescale adoption of 3d printing, particularly in the military - what kind of impact does that have on pre existing relationships and contracts with companies that make these components?
Michael Pecota 1:17:28
Man, you're going deep, that's good. You can tell that it's an area, a lot of us think it's an area of contention. A lot of people think that the OEMs, are afraid that we're not going to buy their products anymore, that we're going to make things in house and not use them. And that's not the case. We have really good relationships with the all the major OEMs and we're totally upfront with them all the time, like, hey, we want to do this. We have this logistical problem. And nine times out of 10, they want to support it. They're also doing additive and 3d printing. So they want to field it, they want the use cases. They understand if you if you're missing this pressure relief. Now, that's not a good example. But you're missing this pressure relief valve. To get under DoD contract to make you all of these that you need to support this aircraft for now and the next five years, it's going to take years of contractual work, it's going to take years of standing up the staff to manufacture them, the production lines, the material, the certifications. It's going to take you years to get the thing that you need, but additive you if there's an additive option, we can work with you and you can make that now in days and weeks. We had a really good example. And this has been publicized, so I don't worry about saying it. But there was an F18 team down on a carrier in Japan, about two years back. They said, Hey, we've got this problem. We think there's an additive solution. What can we do? We worked around the clock, several of us were there at night, you know, we did all our meals together. But within like 72 hours, we saw their problem, we came up with a solution. We worked with all the engineers on base to get it certified and that aircraft left the deck in 72 hours. We just emailed them a file on how to print it and how to put it together. And that's unheard of. You wouldn't see that from working with industry putting contracts in place getting a big OEM to make something for you and the solution itself and material was a couple of cents. So it's really revolutionising tha. Industry wants to work with us. I see a future where with different like we're in a standard. I hope that the military stands up different contractual language and contractual vehicles so that if we did want to print that valve, and we didn't have the data, we can reach back to an aircraft manufacturer of some kind that owns it and say, hey, you've got the model for this. We want to print it. Let's buy it for for a small run. So you don't even have to manufacture it we'll manufacture it just will pay you for the rights. So I think that's the future we're all working towards so that we don't have to reverse engineer everything all the time spending weeks and months to get things approved. We work directly with the OEMs. They allow us to print it, they give us the technical data. Well, they don't give it to us, they sell it to us. And we do a limited run to get Mission complete, get it done. And I believe that's something that's a priority at a very high level. It's been talked about. I haven't seen an implementation plan, but it's everyone's paving the way for how do we get from where we are today to get there. And it takes a lot of industry standards, it takes a lot of certificatio. Industry has to be able to make things the exact same way that we do. We all have to have trained personnel at the same level so that when we manufacture something here, it is exactly as they intended over there. And we're getting there. It's just, we don't as I mentioned before, I haven't seen people with enough funding trickle down to make that a real reality with a real roadmap so that you can't align anything to a roadmap that's not funded. You have all these great ideas and said, look where we could be in five years, look, we'll be in 10 years. But if no one funds that shit, it will never happen. A year from now you're gonna say, yep, we can still do this, Hey, we can still do this in five years. It's always going to be this imaginary goal that keeps moving until those action items are funded upon directly. So yeah, industry wants to work with us, we want to work with industry we do, we have a lot of contractual vehicles, like what's called a crater. So there isn't really money going back and forth. But it's a way to share information with like major groups, major organizations, that's legal in the DOD to do so. So there's a lot of progress. Nobody is doing anything in a bubble, no one's doing anything contractually illegal. Everything is still in those tight boundaries.
Brock Briggs 1:21:57
I would imagine from an OEM perspective, if you're a large defense contractor of some sort, you're, that is probably very beneficial to you, and they probably will be able to kind of pull the DoD along, the DoD is not going to be the one to like, run out there and charge ahead. But these guys, these large industry players have the opportunity to create the system. And I mean, from the business perspective, that's like a super asset light model for them, if they can make like enough to test a part, license it to the DOD, it's a offload all the manufacturing and say, that's your guys's problem now. And, you know, we'll come in and, you know, make sure all the quality checks are there. But that's, that's good for their business, too.
Michael Pecota 1:22:46
It's the Netflix model, man, you know, Netflix, back in the day, you you email, you send in a request, and you got a cd. It was all CDs, DVDs, you had a physical asset in front of you supplied by them. And now look where we're at. It's all digital, it's all virtual, they don't manufacture CD, DVD cases, they don't have to deal with the mailing anything like that. So they've created this environment, where they're supporting the infrastructure, they're getting the data in there, they own it, and then they're leasing to you the environment. And it cost them nothing. You know, they're not paying for your TV, your electrical bill. I can't I can't imagine OEMs not wanting to jump on this business model where they own the technical data that they lease to the military or outside the military, for other people to manufacture it. And then I don't, it's not free money, nothing's ever free money, but you've got reoccurring money, that after its creation cost you nothing. It costs you the contractual whatever to keep the contracts open to allow that to happen. But that's minuscule compared to starting up an entire production line, and paying all of your staff and paying them benefits and wages, dealing with your own supply chains and materials. Instead of hey, I own the data, I'm going to let you make it go to town. It's a no, it's really a no brainer to me. It's just all of these things got to come in place to allow the technology to do that. The OEM has to have trust in the system, so that you can prove that you deleted their file after you did. They have to have trust in faith and that in a receipt that you only did it that number of times. And there's some super crazy things coming into industry right now. A friend of mine owns a company called Smartparts and they can dope the materials going into anything in this case additive, similar to how your dollar bill is so that it's scannable. Let's say you had a God hopes not. You had an aircraft go down somewhere, it blew up into a million pieces. Well, in this case, we'll say the crew got out because that makes me feel better. So it's just an aircraft and pieces. You don't know what this thing is you can scan it and be like, Oh, it's this it was created here by this. Just by scanning a very small part of something you can identify it. It's incredible. So yeah, in that level of traceability, you've got faith in the system, once you build a system that can support things like that, then you know, you really have the truth, the facts in place and the faith in the system that when you say you've made one of these things, you really only made one and you didn't make 100. And you're not stiffing them. For 99.
Brock Briggs 1:25:26
I was reading an article, I think that either you share it on LinkedIn or or otherwise, but there was a large 3d printer of liquid metal going on to a carrier that was in a Conex box that was 15,000 Bounce. Like that is that's crazy.
Michael Pecota 1:25:46
So it's not liquid metal. And this is a known thing, like you said, there's articles, it's close. So Xerox, who we all know usually makes a traditional 3d printing released a printer that uses almost like a metal filament, so almost like a very thin wire going into it. And in the process, it creates little droplets inside of the machine itself. So yeah, they didn't put on a carrier, they put it on one of the LHDs. I believe, I know the name of it, but it's escaping me. So they put it on there as a test. That's the same machine that they have at the Naval Postgraduate School, somebody saw it and wanted to make it happen. Now that was that's existed outside of a lot of the engineering community. It's cool, don't get me wrong, it's cool that somebody said, I want this, I want to make it happen. Let's put it on ship. Let's move fast. But you know, I don't have faith that very similar to as I said, I've seen in the last 10 years, with fielding printers to the fleet, putting a printer into an environment is not enough. You need the engineering community behind it, the logistics community behind it, to repair it, to keep it up to date, to get the material it needs to have the tech authority and the ability to do it to have a database of parts they can make to establish the training. To make it a real solution. It's much bigger than just putting another printer in another place. But it is really cool. It's really cool, how fast this has moved. And now you've got a metal capability on ship. I don't know of another metal capability on a naval vessel before, you've obviously had a ton of 3d printers, but they're mostly polymers, I could be mistaken. But to my knowledge, it was the first which in itself is also cool.
Brock Briggs 1:27:25
What one of my last couple of questions for you here is who is hurt? Or what are the downsides of this wave of 3d printing that you're talking about.
Michael Pecota 1:27:39
Okay, so normally, in my environment, who is hurt, who is hurt is the people that own the traditional manufacture or the traditional processes that we use. So the people that say, Hey, apart can only do this, I can only get it through contract I this is all I know how to do, those people who are not forward thinking and willing to change are who is hurt. But to everybody else, there's not a lot of ramification, there is a scenario where literally somebody could be hurt down the line, if they just 3d print something that they think is going to work like a wrench, they think it's going to work this way. It's just a wrench after all, and then it breaks and it gets in your eyes a little stuff, you're like, oh, it's not a wrench, oh, dear. There's still a very early understanding of how additive components will behave. That layering method, we talked about how they bond. You can't just put it into a cad or a design software right now, like you can with traditional manufacturing. I can cad a model right now and say, I'm gonna make this out of titanium and I can put it under loads and stresses, and within a certain degree of accuracy that the digital model will tell you what it will experience because you're bonding layers, we really don't have enough data in any systems at all, to be able to tell you how it will behave. So there's always chances you still have to do test couponing, break it over and over again to see what the tolerances are. So there's a potential that people could make things that get people hurt. However, when you're not just putting a 3d printer out there and saying go, when you're actually dealing with the engineering community that does all of this research, they feel machines in a very small window, this machine in this software with this material controlled by these processes, it's much better and you'll get an understanding and you can make things safely. But when everything is just somewhere, there's nobody behind it to talk to. There's no engineering, there's no research. People can get hurt. It's a fact. And that's why we don't just need another printer in the fleet or anywhere. We need as an organization to take it on and say we're doing this we're starting with this in a controlled environment. We're going to expand out and we're this is how we're going to do it because that is sustainable. That Is everything that we've learned in the last 10 years with putting new technology in the fleet, this is how you do it. And hopefully one day somebody catches on to that and is able to fund it in such a way that it really becomes sustainable, not just for a couple of years, but as a full program moving forward. And that's when we're going to see some change, man. When, when we're not chasing our tails, or anybody in additive in the DoD isn't just chasing their tails every couple of years for funding. When you can make a 10 year plan a 20 year plan and be executing to it, we're going to see some incredible things I know it, I've seen some of it. The last couple of years, people have been on what's called overhead where they exist. And they're not afraid of aligning to a fund. We've made some incredible advances just with that. But yeah, I can't say that enough, I really hope. And maybe it's through this podcast, maybe through somebody, this podcast will see this, hear this, and be able to do something about it. But until that happens, we're gonna see little advances, little wins that keep us going until eventually that day comes and we really start moving.
Brock Briggs 1:31:04
You strike me as the person who this seems to be a very large part of your life. And I'm guessing that you could make some recommendations to people who are interested places for further study reading websites, email subscriptions, like anything that people could go to learn more about additive and this space generally
Michael Pecota 1:31:27
Absolutely where to begin where to begin. So there's a wonderful group called America Makes founded by the Obama administration American makes is the United States hub for additive manufacturing knowledge and work that DOD members can join for free. A lot of people don't know that. I did back in us and you can get involved in little ways. As always, you can get the start like I did, you can buy a 3d printer and learn from there. I mentioned before you can go to public libraries, you can search 3d printing news. There's three different organizations that I follow that put out news daily and weekly. You can always follow my LinkedIn, I love my fucking LinkedIn, I just I find things and post it. Anyone can always contact me at any time. There's schoolhouses attached to it. Penn State has an entire master's degree program with it. The best courses I have been to and I tried to do them all I've kind of used my GI Bill to not really pursue like fit getting my degree but to find all of these little additive courses and take them I've been through Penn State several at MIT ASTM ASME. I find it I go to it. But MIT, by far has two of the best courses in the industry for additive. Depending on different people in their transition. The first time I went to one of those MIT courses was in person at the campus, and the state of Maryland paid for it. So they have various programs when you're transitioning out of the military that people can help you. Maryland had a program. And you could use up to I think it was like $5,000. And so yeah, I mean, I went to MIT for a week and a half, got hands on knowledge got embedded in it 24/7 got that level of just wow factor. They also bought me a suit to attend, which was cool. I got like a couple $100 to put towards a suit. So I really encourage anybody who's interested in additive to research, additive manufacturing, 3d printing, put it in social media, it's everywhere. Put it in your Google search history, and start looking at books. There's several different books that are out there. It is really everywhere once you start looking, you will be bombarded by information. The other thing I recommend if if you have a means of attending it, there's an annual conference called amug additive manufacturers users group. It isn't your typical conference, like a normal conference, you think people are going to be selling things. They don't allow people to sell things. It is all about users. Their theme is for users by users. This year, I'm volunteering with them in one of their committees to help progress the DoD inside of thi. But amug is the greatest knowledge that you will get in this industry. You will be there immersed with everybody. All the NASA is there GE Boeing industry as a whole. Everybody's they're saying, Hey, I'm using 3d printing and additive to do this. Let me teach you what I'm doing and how. So if you have if you're having interest, that's great. I'm also working with a program called DoD skill bridge right now. I'm not sure. Are you familiar with that program? It's phenomenal. So for those who maybe are listening that don't know, the last six months of anybody's service, up to six months of anybody's service while they're in uniform, you can ask to participate in the DoD skill bridge program, and they will allow you to work as like an unpaid intern, industry intern outside of military. So you will learn how to do those jobs so that when you do transition out, you're ready. You're already in the environment. You've been doing it you have skills, marketable skills, and hopefully it just transitions right into a job. So I'm working with DoD skill bridge program right now and one of our major OEMs. I'm giving them the OEM our information for what is the skill set that we're training to. When somebody comes out of the service as a 3d printing or additive technician, what do they know? And why that's important is, then industry can create that as a standard acceptance for like, hey, our operators, we're accepting this, which is exactly what the military is putting out. So you're not going to see people that exit the service that I was a 3d printing tech for 10, 20 years, even two years, and I can't get a job. No, it'll be transferable. you'll be able to write a resume to your exact skill set, get a job in industry. And I hope that once we get the first couple into the skill bridge program, we'll be able to work with American Makes and some of the great people over there and really create a standard for what an operator a basic operator is an advanced operator and it'll exactly match up with the training curriculum that we're putting out for sailors and everything's going to line up because you know, if you're a, an avionics tech in in the DoD and you go try to be an avionics tech for Lockheed or Boeing or anybody else, it's the same language. It communicates. They have jobs at those positions, you can do that. Additive isn't there yet. There are no industry standards, there are no baselines. So skill bridges the way right now I have access to working within that program and the people necessary to do that. And after that, we're only going to advance and hopefully, this is what it all comes down to is not just creating a workforce that suits us in the DoD where they can 3d print stuff when we need it, but a workforce with transferable skills that can go in industry and get jobs, their skills apply and they're not just another veteran out there trying to think what can I do, I don't have marketable skills, like you never make it outside of the military. It's got to be holistic, it's got to be much bigger than that. And that's another reason why I love what I do, I'm able to do all that stuff.
Brock Briggs 1:37:04
Is there anything else that you think that every active duty or veteran member ought to hear?
Michael Pecota 1:37:15
I more than every, every veteran, I think every active duty member, especially those that are in senior positions needed to know and hear that we need to support people getting out of the service. It was the scare even though I was working with the team that I knew I was I thought I was gonna get a job with I thought I had everything lined up that last year was this, I'll be honest, with the scariest time in my life. With all the stuff that I've done, even being forward deployed, no matter what I've done, the fear was in transition. You're going from years of a environment, you know, and understood. Some people have only been an adult in that situation, you know, they've been in since they're 18. Now they're getting out in their late 30s maybe and this is all they've ever known. We need to do a better job in supporting that in giving people time, letting them go to medical, let them take care of the things not push them to do the job in work everyday and keep pushing them to keep producing, let them go take their appointments, let them train, give them every give them every capability to succeed, because all you're doing is holding people back. You know that those are the folks I've lost to friends, I'm gonna be quite honest with you, as they exited the service that they committed suicide within a few years and for the same reasons. They didn't know how to get jobs, they didn't know how to market themselves. They felt like they weren't being, you know, the man of the household and supporting their families. And unfortunately, even recently, I've been to a command that I won't mention, I was talking about the skill bridge program, I looked, this is what we're doing. It's great. And they went no, we hate the skill bridge program, we lose bodies, that way we don't get manning, we will never participate. And they were very strong about it. And that is the wrong thing to do. You can't just think in the moment about the mission. It can't always be about the mission. At some point, you have to put the people first and you have to realize that there's a life outside the military and that these people deserve to have every advantage transitioning into it because we as a group and as a team have the most to lose. It's very easy for somebody that's not in the DoD. You know, if you're working at you know, you're a salesman and you're you're selling cars for you to just work somewhere else and get another job, you quit, you're out. But in the military, you're getting out it's complete change of lifestyle. You and your family have never known anything about that. We need to do better and we have to do better and I unfortunately not in I'm not seeing it. I'm seeing many programs go underutilized simply because the leadership in the command and in the unit is only putting the mission first and they don't see that The mission is the people and that they won't they're not going to be successful otherwise.
Brock Briggs 1:40:06
I appreciate you sharing that. Michael, thank you so much.